A Florida man was told by doctors that he had picked up a flesh-eating bacterial infection, often known as necrotizing fasciitis, doing yard work, reported WFLA.
John Blanchard told the news station he was bitten by two ants last month as he did some landscaping in his home in Tampa Bay.
“I didn’t think nothing of it, threw a Band-Aid on it,” he said.
But the bite got worse and worse. Four days later he went to urgent care and was put on antibiotics.
But by the end of the week, he was in the hospital, where doctors told him he had contracted cellulitis, describing it as a “flesh-eating bacterial infection,” according to WFLA.
“At 3 a.m. Friday that week, I woke up, felt like my finger was on fire,” he said.
Doctors had to perform surgery, saying that without treatment it could spread to deeper tissues and cause a more serious case of fasciitis.
Dead After Walking on Florida Beach
Various cases of flesh-eating bacteria have been reported in Florida over the last month or so.
The condition can be caused by several different types of bacteria, and is often known by the medical term “necrotizing fasciitis.”
“Necrotizing means causing the death of tissues,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that the condition is rare.
“Fasciitis means inflammation of the fascia (the tissue under the skin that surrounds muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels),” the agency says on its website.
Once an infection takes hold, it can develop and spread rapidly, killing tissue as it grows.
Last month, 77-year-old Lynn Fleming died just two weeks after becoming infected with one of the bacteria when she cut her leg on a Florida beach.
“It seems like a ‘Lifetime’ movie really,” her son Wade told Fox10. “I can’t even believe it, that it’s really even happening. It’s just all happening so fast.”
Lynn Fleming was walking on the beach with Wade and his wife Traci on June 14 when she cut her leg, according to NBC News.
“There was a little depression that she couldn’t see because it was under the water,” Wade told Fox10. “She fell into it, came out with a little three-quarter-inch cut. It was just a small cut, didn’t think much of it. We got the swelling down, but it just kept bleeding.”
Three days later and her shin was black.
“Her friends found her pretty much unconscious and on her bedroom floor,” Traci told NBC News.
Doctors at the hospital found her to be infected by the flesh-eating bacteria.
Doctors had to operate upon the infected leg and she suffered two strokes while undergoing surgeries. According to NBC News, her entire body was infected with sepsis and she also suffered from kidney failure.
1 in 3 Cases Result in Death
The condition is more likely to occur in those with conditions that lower immunity, notably diabetes, kidney, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer.
According to the CDC, early symptoms of the condition include a red or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly, severe pain, including pain beyond the area of the skin that is red, and a fever.
Although these symptoms can also be caused by minor illnesses, the CDC warns to err on the sided of caution. “See a doctor right away if you have these symptoms after an injury or surgery.”
“Later symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include: Ulcers, blisters, or black spots on the skin … changes in the color of the skin … pus or oozing from the infected area,” the agency says.
Dizziness, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea are also symptoms.
“Even with treatment, up to 1 in 3 people with necrotizing fasciitis die from the infection,” according to the CDC website. Fortunately, the condition is not infectious and very rarely can be passed on through contact.
A Port Charlotte woman who visited Florida’s Manasota Beach before the Fourth of July holiday ended up having to get part of her foot surgically removed after contracting a flesh-eating disease.
WFLA reported that Leann Thibodeau entered the water at the beach, just south of Venice, on Saturday, June 29, with a tiny cut on her foot that had already scabbed over. She told the news outlet that by Tuesday, her foot was showing signs of redness and infection.
She told WATE News that she even joked around with her friends that she might have contracted a flesh-eating disease, never thinking this was actually the case.
“I didn’t believe that I had flesh-eating bacteria,” Thibodeau told WINK News. “I am like, ‘my foot is just infected. No big deal.’”
By Independence Day, she was unable to walk. She said her mother took her to Port Charlotte’s Bayfront Health, where she was diagnosed with a flesh-eating infection.
“I could not believe that this had happened to me,” Thibodeau told WINK News.
Tom Ozimek and Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.